You are on page 1of 37


Author(s): Giorgio Tonelli

Source: Archiv für Begriffsgeschichte, Vol. 20 (1976), pp. 178-213
Published by: Felix Meiner Verlag GmbH
Stable URL:
Accessed: 17-02-2018 00:21 UTC

Linked references are available on JSTOR for this article:
You may need to log in to JSTOR to access the linked references.

JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide
range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and
facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at

Felix Meiner Verlag GmbH is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend
access to Archiv für Begriffsgeschichte

This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
Giorgio Tonelli



1. I can not inquire here into the history of these notions, as p

the XVIIIth Century, although the knowledge of that history is
in order to fully understand its XVIIIth Century developmen
nately, I can refer to some studies on the subjects which, at least,
describe the precedents of the issues in question1. It is notewort
XVIIth Century philosophy had already very much simplified th
in comparison, e. g., with their treatment during the Renaissanc

1 See L. M. Regis, "Analyse et synthèse dans l'oeuvre de Saint Thomas

Mediaevalia in honorent ad. Rev. P. R. J. Martin, Brugis Flandr. 1948, p
H. Schepers, A. Riidigers Méthodologie und ihre Voraussetzungen, Kôln 1959
der Kant-Studien, N. 78), pp. 18 ff.; S. E. Dolan, "Resolution and Compo
Speculative and Practical Discourse," Laval théologique et philosophique,
H. J. de Vleesc.hauwf.r, More seu ordine geometrico demonstratum, Preto
(Mededelings van die Universiteit van Suid-Afrika, C. 27); N. W. Gilbert,
Concepts of Method, New York, 1960; J. H. Randall jr., The School of Pad
Emergence of Modern Science, Padova 1961; E. de Angelis, II metodo geom
filosofia del Seicento, Pisa 1964 (p. 59 ff. in particular); A. Crescini, Le
metodo analitico. II Cinquecento, Udine 1965; H. Schuling, Die Geschichte
tischen Methode im 16. und beginnenden 17. Jahrhundert, Hildesheim—New
W. Rod, Geometrischer Geist und Naturrecht. Methodengeschichtliche Untersuch
Staatsphilosophie im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert, Miindien 1970 (Bayerische Ak
Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-Historische Klasse, Abhandlungen, Neue Fo
H. W. Arndt, Methodo scientifica pertractatum, Berlin—New York 1971; H
Worterbuch der Philosophie, ed. by J. Ritter, Vol. 1, Basel—Stuttgart
"Analyse/Synthese", by L. Oeing-Hanhoff; C. B. Boyer, "Analysis: Note
Evolution of a Subject and a Name", The Mathematics Teacher, XLVII, η—7
A. Crescini, Il problema metodologico allé origini della scienza moderna, R
The most comprehensive XVIIth century treatise devoted to the subject is
Methodologia particularis, Regiomonti 1639. It is also essential to realize that
many discussions about the methods in question in Protestant theology: t
Lutheran orthodoxy was committed to the analytic method, although it con
a different way from that of the philosophers. See E. Weber, Die analytisc
der lutherischen Orthodoxie, Habil.-Sdir. Halle, Naumburg a. S. 1970; id., D
der Protestantischen Schulphilosophie auf die orthodox-lutherische Dogmatik, Le
I Hpt.
2 De Angelis, Op. cit., pp. 116—117; Arndt, Op. cit., passim.


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
XVIIIth Century introduces, comparatively, a further simplification,
although this problem is still amply debated and connected with many
basic questions.

However, after Kant loaded these terms with multifarious and mostly
new meanings, they underwent a revival which has lasted until our days.
But, in order to understand these developments, it is essential to recon
struct their immédiate historical premises, which only can make them
adequately intelligible.

It can be said in général that, according to an ancient tradition, the

analysis or resolutio (Auflösung) is that cognitive procédure which, begin
ning from sensible and/or complex représentations, aims at establishing
their constituent parts, and, furthermore, the constituent parts of these
parts, until some "simple" or "irresoluble" elements, or the "causes" of
the "effects", are reached, which are the "elementary notions" or the "first
The synthesis or compositio (Zusammensetzung), on the contrary, be
gins with those elementary notions and first principles, and, combining
them and deducing from them, élaborâtes more complex notions and pro
positions, viz. dérivés the "effects" from the "causes", until it reaches,
if it can complété its procédure, at least a part of those représentations
which were at the foundation of the analytical process, and, also, new
représentations not offered by experience. Thus, both processes coïncide
at least partially in their results, as the basic two scientific methods pro
ceeding in opposite directions, which are called to perform différent tasks,
but also to confirm each other.

Their nature and function raise, of course, many controversies. The

basic problems are the following: 1) What is the nature of the elemen
tary ideas and of the first principles which the analytical method aims
to reach, and which lie at the foundation of the synthetic process; 2) What
are the proper aim and use of the two methods in philosophy. The answer
given to these questions shall fundamentally affect the conception of both
methods as understood by the différent philosophers.

It is also necessary to keep in mind that the terms in question are not
only used in philosophy. They are also currently part and parcel of the
chemical terminology, and mathematicians used the term "analysis" since
the Greek antiquity. These différent meanings sometimes interfere with
the philosophical ones: therefore I shall occasionally refer to them, in
particular when this interférence occurs.


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
2. In England, the concept of composition and décomposition of ideas
in their simple constituents had played a great role with Locke — but
this philosopher does not essentially contribute to a better understanding
of this procédure s.
Newton considers the subject at the end of his Optics: for him, in
mathematics, and in observations and experiments as well, the analysis
should always précédé the synthesis, because it allows us to proceed from
the Compounds to the composing parts, and in général from the effects
to the causes, until we reach the most général causes, established by pro
positions of empirical (non demonstrative) validity, which can be main
tained as long as new experiences do not contradict them. On the con
trary, the synthesis begins with these causes or principles, and dérivés
from them the phenomena through a demonstrative process, which is valid
only in as far as its premises hold. He states that, in his Optics, he has
employed sometimes the one and sometimes the other method4. I have
no reason to believe that this was not the procédure he also deemed to
have applied in his Principles 5. This is explicitly confirmed by R. Cotes,
in his Préfacé to the second (1713) édition of the Principles ®.
The Newtonians did not pay mudi attention to this problem; only
McLaurin mentions it occasionally 7.
Harris, in his Lexicon, defines the chemical meaning of analysis, and
adds some rather obvious remarks about mathematical analysis:
«Algebra is sometimes called the Analitik Art, because it teaches us to
solve questions and to demonstrate theorems, by inquiring into the Bot
tom, into the Fundamental Constitution and Nature of the thing; which
is, as it were resolved into its parts, taken all to pieces, and then put
together again, so we may see into the Reason and Nature of it» 8.

3 J. Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, ed. Campbell Fraser, New

York, 1959; see vol. I, p. 386; vol. II, p. 139, 296, 381, 382, 385, 424.
4 I. Newton, Opticks, s. 1. 1952, pp. 404—405 (Query # 31, added in the 1706 édition).
5 I. Newton, Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica, ed. Le Sueur and
Jacquier, Coloniae All. 1760, vol. I, p. XII; "ut a phaenomenis motuum investigemus
vires naturae, deinde ab his viribus demonstremus phaenomena reliqua".
6 I. Newton, Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica, Cantabrigiae 1713, p. [2]:
"Duplici itaque methodo incedunt, analytica & synthetica. Naturae vires legesque virium
simpliciores ex selectis quibusdam phaenomenis per analysin deducunt, ex quibus deinde
per synthesim reliquorum constitutionem tradunt. Haec illa est philosophandi ratio longe
optima, quam prae caeteris merito amplectendum censuit celeberrimus auctor noster. Haud
solam dignam judicavit, in qua excolenda atque adornanda operam suam collocaret."
7 C. McLaurin, An Account of Sir I. Newton's Philosophical Discoveries, London
1748, p. 8 f., 222 ff.
8 J. Harris, Lexicon Technicum, London 1704, col. I, s. ν. "Analysis".


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
About synthesis, he states:

«Synthetical Method of Enquiry, or Demonstration in Mathematicks, is

when we pursue the Truth diiefly by Reasons drawn from Principles
before established, and Propositions formerly proved, and proceed by a
long regulär chain, tili we come to the conclusion» 9.
Stone, in his Dictionary (1728), repeats almost literally Harris' défi
nitions 10. But Chambers, in his Cyclopaedia (1728), expands on the logical
meaning of these terms:
«Analysis in Logic, is a method of applying the rules of reasoning, to
résolve a discourse into its principles, in order to a discovery of its truth,
or falsehood. Or it is an examination of some discourse, proposition, or
other matter, by searching into its principles, and separating and opening
its parts; in order to consider them more distinctly, and arrive at the more
précisé knowledge of the whole.
Synthesis (.. .), composition (...). In the synthesis, or the synthetic
method, we pursue the truth by reasons drawn from principles before
established, or assumed, and propositions formerly proved; thus proceed
ing by a regulär chain, tili we come to the conclusion» 11.
In the 1753 Supplement to his Cyclopaedia, Chambers adds a définition
of mathematical analysis, and of chemical analysis and synthesis.
S. Johnson lists the following meanings (1755):


1. A séparation of a Compound body into the several part

consists» (...).
2. A considération of anything in parts, so as that one parti
considered, then another.
ANALYSIS consists in making experiments and observa
drawing général conclusions from them by induction (...).

3. A solution of anything, whether corporeal or mental, to i

as, of a sentence to its single words; of a Compound
particles or words which form it (...).

' Op. cit., s. v. "Synthetical Method".

10 E. Stone, A New Mathematical Dictionary, London 1726, s. v. "
'Synthetical Method".
11 E. Chambers, Cyclopaedia, London 1728, s. v. "Analysis" and "Synth


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
We cannot know anything of nature, but by analysis of its true initial
causes; tili we know the first Springs of natural motions, we are still
but ignorants» 12.
The contemporary British logicians had not much more to say on this
subject. Watt's views in this respect are elementary 13. Duncan simply
mentions the "composition and relation" of our ideas, and wams us to
proceed gradually through all intermediate Steps in the process of induc
tion, which belongs to analysis, before we readi the notions of the genuses
and species u. This is obviously an old Baconian warning.

3. In Holland, R. Andala, a late Cartesian, quoted Descartes' passages

on the problem (from the Responsiones Secundae), and expressed his pre
ference for the analytic method, according to Descartes notion of it15.
The Dutch Newtonians showed a lively interest in methodological ques
tions 16. In 1730 van Musschenbroek theorized both analysis and synthe
sis as kinds of expérimental procédure in physics and in chemistry. It is
noteworthy that, in his opinion, experiments do not only pertain to the
analytical process, but to the synthetical as well. Analysis inquires into
the inner nature of bodies, by decomposing them into their simple elements;
synthesis aims at experimentally reconstructing them, on the foundation
of the elements revealed by analysis; and this offers a confirmation of
the validity of the conclusions readied by analysis 17. This is, again, a
Baconian attitude. But he also offered (1734) a theorization of both me
thods as logical-scientific procédures, where he closely followed New

12 S. Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language, London 1755 (rp. Hildesheim

1968). The entries "Synthesis", "Synthetic" are insignificant. The entries "Analysis",
"Analytick", etc. in Th. Dyche, W. Pardon, A New General English Dictionary,
London 1740 (rp. Hildesheim—New York 1972) are very superficial.
13 I. Watts, Logick, London 1731 [17241]. He has not mudi to say about analysis
(pp. 340—341), but he clarifies its différent meanings: (1) as the subdivision of a book;
(2) as the subdivision of a discourse according to its various arguments — grammatical,
logical analysis of a sentence; (3) algebric analysis; (4) logical analysis. He adds:
«Synthetic Method is that, whidi begins with the Parts, and leads onward to the know
ledge of the Whole; it begins with the most simple principles, and général Truths, and
proceeds by degrees to that whidi is drawn from them or Compound of them: and there
fore it is called the Method of Composition.·»
14 M. Duncan, The Preceptor, London 1748, Ch. VII and p. 72.
15 R. Andala, Exercitationes academicae, Franequerae 1709, pp. 224—225.
16 P. Brunet, Les physiciens hollandais et la méthode expérimentale en Trance au
XVIIIe siècle, Paris 1926: in particular, pp. 74—75.
17 P. van Musschenbroeck, De methodo instituendi expérimenta physica, Lugduni
Bat. 1730, p. XXXVI-LX.


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
ton 18, although he was more inclined towards a researdi of the "true"
causes of natural phenomena; i. e. towards a less probabilistic conception
of the first principles19.
's Gravesande's approach (1736) was différent, in spite of a traditio
nal déclaration of principle 20. In the first place, he did not assert the
parallel and complementary character of the two methods, which he did
not treat, as it was used, in contiguous chapters: after his chapter on
analysis he introduced a chapter on hypothesis, and another on deciphering,
before coming to the chapter on synthesis. The analytical method is con
sidered by him as the only true method of research, in order to examine
the truth of a proposition, or to solve a problem. It consists in Connect
ing the truth searched for with some well known truth, either simple or
complex. One should in the first place give the question an exact for
mulation; then, one should try to subdivide it into more particular ques
tions (obvious Cartesian réminiscence); in the third place, one should try
to reduct those particular questions to questions determined by help of
other knowledge, or of experience; furthermore, one should compare those
particular déterminant propositions with each other, combining them into
a complex proposition containing the solution of the initial problem. This
procédure is exemplified through a problem of acustics, which is care
fully developed 21. It is clear that, for this author, some elements tradi
tionally belonging to synthesis are attributed to analysis. As for synthesis,
its only use is to explain to others what we already know; its value seems
to be merely pedagogical. In the synthetic method one shall begin with
a proper définition of the terms; with the enunciation of the axioms, of
the postulâtes, and, if necessary, of the hypothèses (although they do not
absolutely need to be all enunciated at the beginning). In the second place,
one shall divide the argument in order to treat separately each one ques
tion, beginning, if possible, with the simplest ones. The deductive order
must be strictly followed: the simple propositions shall précédé the com
posed, and the général shall précédé the particular, in so far as possible 22.

18 P. van Musschenbroeck, Elementa physicae, Lugduni Bat. 1734. The passage in

question is on pp. XX—XXI of the French translation by J.-A. Sigaud de La Fond,
Cours de Physique, Paris 1769, Vol. I. See also van Musschenbroeck, Introductio in
philosophiam naturalem, Lugd. Bat. 1762, p. 15.
19 Brunet, Op. cit., p. 95.
20 G. J. 's Gravesande, Introductio ad philosophiam, Lugduni Bat. 1736. Quotations
refer to the French translation, Introduction à la Philosophie, Leide 1748: p. 340
(N. 853).
21 Op. cit., pp. 364—381 (N. 923—967).
22 Op. cit., pp. 408—424 (N. 1057—1109).


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
Our author clearly exacts for the synthetic method an order proceeding
from the simple to the complex, but he admits that sometimes it is im
possible to actualize it2S. It seems that also the way he conceives the
synthesis contains some elements of the traditional notion of analysis,
and that his theorization follows the praxis of scientific teaching rather
than an abstract methodological conception. But it is noteworthy that
his doctrines largely dépend upon the Logique de Ρort-Royal24 : thus it
is licit to assert that they are derived in fact rather from a spéculative tra
dition than from his personal expérimental activity.
Because of his connections with the Dutch intellectual world, I will
consider Swedenborg's ideas on the subject in this place. In 1744, he
declared that the synthesis, proceeding from the causes and from the prin
ciples towards the effects and the phenomena, is based in man merely on
conjectures and opinions unwarrantedly derived from an insufficient
amount of experience 25; therefore, although it entices the human mind
by the ludos ideales it allows, it is basically a source of error 26. Actually,
this way of knowing is adapted only to God and to the pure spirits,
whereas man must use analysis 27. Analysis proceeds from the effects, and
from phenomena perceived by sense, through a chain of causes, towards
the first cause and the simple elements of the understanding, and it Orders
the sciences in such a way, that they are not only memorized, but really
understood 28. This is the only way leading man to the principles and to

23 Op. cit., p. 417 (N. 1084): "Si j'entreprenois d'enseigner les Elémens de la Géo
métrie, voici la Division Se l'Ordre que je devrois suivre, si je ne faisois attention qu'à
la dernière Règle, que je viens de proposer. Je devrois commencer par ce qui regarde
les Lignes, de là passer aux Triangles, Se puis aux autres Figures rectilignes; enfin, je
devrois parler du Cercle, &c. Mais, quelle Géométrie seroit-ce que celle là! Ce qui regarde
les Lignes perpendiculaires, et les parallèles, doit être déduit de ce qu'on démontre
des Triangles, Se c'est pourquoi, quelque naturel que paroisse l'ordre que nous venons
d'indiquer, il faut pourtant en suivre un autre".
24 A. Arnauld, P. Nicole, La logique ou l'art de penser, ed. Clair and Girbal,
Paris 1965, pp. 299—312.
25 E. Swedenborg, Regnum animale, Hagae Comitis 1744, N. 7: "Estque Synthesis
re ipsa non nisi quam Analysis proletaria, praecox et vaga, nam non aliud projicit,
quam quod Intellectui seu Ideis intellectualibus per viam sensuum a Phaenomenis Ex
perientiae paucis, nec communi vinculo nexis, ut plurimum primo judicandi aestro,
irrepserat. Haecce, quae ita prima mentis intuitione praecipiuntur, Opiniones, Conjecturae,
Hypothèses, unde Systemata, vocantur".
23 Op. cit., N. 8.
27 Op. cit., N. 10.
28 Op. cit., N. 11: "Analysis a Causatis, Effectibus & Phaenomenis per viam sensuum
Corporis ingressis telam suae ratiocinationis indioat, Se usque ad Causas causarumque
causas, id est, ad simplicia Mentis procedit, & stamen telae retescit. Documenta certe
primum Se evidentia conquirit, quae undique circumsparsa legit, in struem confert, mox


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
truths, and allowing him to connect them systematically, generating the
sciences and the arts; thus, the soul raises above the senses, and can be
enlightened by the divine truths, which, at the climax of this ascension,
descend from Heaven into us29. And from this originates the faith in
God 30. Rational intellectual ideas, in fact, do not come through the sen
ses but are generated by the soul (anima) into the mind (mens, which
is an inferior power). The human mind is able to understand and to think
only insofar as it is illuminated by the soul at the same time as it is
affected by the senses; the soul is at the true origin of all science 31.

4. XVIIIth Century France was minimally productive in the field of

logic in the traditional sense. It was still dominated by the Logique de
Ρort-Royal, which appeared in not less than 20 éditions between 1700 and
1760 32. Therefore, I shall briefly relate the doctrine it contains on our
Analysis is useful for discovering the truth (méthode d'invention), syn
thesis for communicating it to the others (méthode de doctrine). In géné
ral, no science is treated in an exclusively analytical way, which is limited
to some questions. The analysis' use is to find both the causes of given
effects, and the effects of given causes (in mechanical inventions); to find
the whole when the parts are given (as in arithmetical additions, and in
some theorems of geometry), or in order to find other parts, when the
whole and some of the parts are given (as in subtraction, and in some
geometrical theorems). Analysis does not begin with général truths, on

inde eximit, & scite in ordinem dispescit. Insuper etiam Scientias, quas Natura Ingenii
humani usquem suppetiit, non memoria tenus sed pectore haurit, discitque usui (..
29 Op. cit., Ν. 12: "Haec via sola ducit ad Principia atque Veritates, seu ad Superiora,
& fere ad Coelestia, nec alia nobis Terrigenis videtur; sed sane operosissima Sc spatiosa,
si Veritatem veritatibus, quae unam ingrediunt, id est, simul omnes unam definientes,
evestigare, Sc communi vinculo connectere, seu concatenare, animus sit: tunc utique
datissimum struendum est fundamentum, singula inter se probe conferenda, & uno spiritu
complectenda: Insuper Scientiae, Doctrinae Sc Artes, quae opus perficient, penitus haurien
dae; imo ex iisdem plures concipiendae; his enim mediis construitur opus, Sc Mens
directe ad culmen perducitur (...) — quantum his mediis ad Veritates ascendimus, tantum
Veritates ad nos descendent; imprimis oportet Mens pura esse, & fines respicere univer
saleres, seu faustitatem genesis humani, & ex hanc Gloriam sui Numinis: tunc Veritas
a suo Coelo in mentes nostras infunditur, nam inde a suo fonte omnis emanat". (In an
earlier work of 1734 the author had stated on the contrary that all knowledge proceeds
from the senses: see his The Principia, transi, by Rendell and Tansley, London 1912,
vol. 2, pp. 7—88).
30 Op. cit., Ν. 21.
31 Ε. Swedenborg, Oeconomia regni animalis, Amstelodami 1740—1741, vol. II,
N. 276—278, 289—290. See also my note, "Divinae particula aurae", Journal of the
History of Philosophy, VII, 1969, p. 164.
32 See W. Risse, Bibliographia logica, vol. I, Hildesheim 1965.


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
the contrary it gradually proceeds toward them, through the application
of the four rules of Descartes 33.
Synthesis, on the contrary, begins from the most général and simplest
truths, in order to proceed towards the less général and the Compound.
Its rules are those employed by geometers in their treatises34. Thus,
if synthesis is defined in a rather traditional way, analysis which is con
sidered as pre-eminent in the scientific method, acquires some of the tra
ditional characters of the synthesis, such as proceeding from the causes
to the effects, from the parts to the whole. This is a clear influence of
Descartes' Regulae 35. Dagoumer's conception of both methods, on the
contrary, is entirely traditional, although he appeals to Descartes 36. Crou
saz 37, Regnault 38, and Le Monnier 39 also adopt traditional positions,
the same as d'Argens, although the latter greatly stresses the Utility of
analysis, reducing the synthesis to a mere method of communication 40.
Condillac's Traité sur l'origine des connaissances humaines (1746) in
troduces some very interesting doctrines. This author does not trust in
the least the synthesis, which, in his opinion, prétends to begin with all
egedly "first" principles, without realizing that they are the resuit of a
complex procédure which is founded on entirely différent elements 41. Even
in mathematics the synthetical method is harmful; the certainty of that
science does not dérivé from this method, but from algebra and analysis 42.

33 Arnauld, Nicole, Op. cit., IV P., ch. II.

34 Op. cit., IV P., ch. III.
35 See De Angelis, Op. cit., pp. 63—64.
33 G. Dagoumer, Philosophia ad usum scholae accomodata [1702], Lugduni 17573,
vo. I, p. 162 ff.
37 J. P. De Crousaz, La Logique, Amsterdam 1720, vol. III, p. 1450.
38 N. Regnault, L'origine ancienne de la physique moderne, vol. III, Paris 1734,
pp. 227—228.
39 P. Le Monnier, Cursus philosophicus, vol. I, Parisiis 1750, p. 421 f., 443 f.
40 J. Β. Le Boyer D'Argens, La philosophie du bon-sens [1737], Dresde 1754, Vol. I,
pp. 233—236.
41 E. Bonnot De Condillac, Oeuvres complètes, Paris 1803, vol. I, pp. 104—196,
110, 112 {Traité, le P., Ile Sect., # 63, 64, 67, 68).
42 Op. cit., pp. 104—105 {ibid., #63); see Vol. II, p. 260 (Ile P., Ile Sect. #52).
Condillac echoed in these doctrines quarreis of old among mathematicians. See e. g.
J. Chr. Sturm, Mathesis enucleata, Norimbergae 1689, Introd., p. VIII: "Visum autem
jampridem est indubium Viris doctis, praeter illam methodum Syntheticam, qua cele
berrima sua & utilissima theoremata et Problemata vel ex principiis notioribus ostensive
ac directe deducebant, aut per deductiones ad absurdum confirmabant, usitatam veteribus
fuisse viam quandam analyticam, cujus ope theoremata & Problemata invenirint, Sc quam
ipsi, ut eo major subiret alios inventorum admiratio, studiose dissimulaverint ac suppres
serint: qua certe methodus priori preferenda multum videtur, quod non solum certi
tudinem propositionum inventarum, sed ipsam earum inventionem una complectatur".


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
The synthetical method is not conducive to new truths, makes things
more complicated, generates error, and miseducates, because it does not
allow any insight into the way truth has been discovered 43.
Condillac attacks on this point Descartes, Spinoza, Arnauld, and
Malebranche 44 — but he certainly also was aiming against those among
his contemporaries who extolled the synthetical mathematical method, and
conformed philosophy to it: first and foremost, Wolff 45. Condillac oppo
ses to them Locke's procédure, studying the origin and génération of our
ideas; a study which Condillac intends to perfect in his Traité 46 although
he proceeds much more basically than Locke in the study of this "géné
ration" 47. "To analyze" means to retrace the origin of ideas, to follow
their génération, and to compare them with each other under all possible
Analysis 49 shall proceed from the "simplest ideas"; but these are not,
as for the Cartesians, or for Wolff, abstract principles or notions; they
are the first particular ideas deriving from sensation and reflection, i. e.
the materials or our knowledge50. The origin and génération of these
ideas shall be discovered, they shall be composed and decomposed, accor
ding to the order offered by experience51. Thus, beginning from the
"easiest ideas" immediately deriving from the senses, other ideas are reach
ed, either simpler or more complex 52. This allows us to discover the "liai
son des idecs", retracing the first opérations of the soul 53.

43 Condillac, Op. cit., vol. I, p. 106 (Traité, le P., Ile Sect., #64); "En effet, pour
exposer la vérité avec l'étalage des principes que demande la synthèse, il est évident
qu'il faut déjà en avoir connoissance. Cette méthode propre, tout au plus, à démontrer
d'une manière fort abstraite des choses qu'on pourroit prouver d'une manière bien plus
simple, éclairé d'autant moins l'esprit qu'elle cache la route qui conduit aux découvertes.
Il est même à craindre qu'elle en impose, en donnant de l'apparence aux paradoxes les
plus faux, parce qu'avec des propositions détachées et souvant fort eloigneés, il est aisé
de prouver tout ce qu'on veut, sans qu'il soit facile d'appercevoir par où un raisonne
ment pêche (..
44 Op. cit., p. 105 (ibid., #63, note 1). Condillac, of course, misrepresents the views
of some of his predecessors: see e. g. De Angelis, Op. cit., p. 62 ff., 72 ff.
45 See G. Tonelli, "Der Streit über die mathematische Methode in der Philosophie
in der ersten Hälfte des 18. Jahrhunderts", Archiv für Philosophie, IX, 1959.
46 Condillac, Op. cit., pp. 3—4, 7, 12—13, 16 (Traité, Introduction).
47 See: F. Duchesnau, "Condillac critique de Locke", International Studies in Philo
sophy, VI, 1974, p. 79 f.
48 Condillac, Op. cit., ρ. 111 (ibid., le P., Ile Sect., # 67).
49 See Duchesnau, Op. cit., pp. 86 and 89 ff.
50 Condillac, Op. cit., vol. II, pp. 238—239 (ibid, Ile P., Ile Sect., # 34).
51 Op. cit., pp. 240—241 (ibid., # 35—36).
52 Op. cit., p. 257 (ibid., # 51).
53 Op. cit., pp. 244—247 (ibid., # 39).


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
Analysis is the proper Order of the search after truth Si, but it is also
the method to follow in expounding truths already established, because
it is instructive to show they have been discovered: thus, the pupil
can understand every step, make a judgment of it by himself, and learn
how to discover new truths5S. Truths expounded in this way become
evident, because the ones follow the others in their natural order, with
out any need for further démonstration; thus, all knowledge is recipro
cally subordinated, making it possible to proceed from the more complex
to the simplest, or vice versa 56.
It is evident that Condillac's basic distinction between analysis and
synthesis rests on the fact that the first is founded on perceptual data, the
second on abstract principles and notions; and, as an extreme empiricist,
he can trust the first procédure only; for him, what is "first" and what
is "simple" belongs to sensation only. Condillac's analysis both com
poses and décomposés; thus, it contains elements traditionally attributed
to the synthesis, and in so doing it is related to the doctrines of the Logique
de Port-Royal. In his Art de penser (1769—1773) Condillac basically
restâtes his doctrines concerning analysis and synthesis 57.

5. It is much more difficult to give a satisfactory account of d'ÄLEM

bert's views on this subject, because they are all but clear. In his Discours
Préliminaire of 1751 he first discusses the "genetical order" of the scien
ces 58, i. e. the order of their invention, whose irregulär character he stres
ses 59. Everything is founded on our sensations, which are at the origin
of our ideas80 ; by reflection, we reach some preliminary truths (the seif,
the existence of the outside world, etc.) 81 ; how this reflection proceeds
is not quite clear: it seems to correspond sometimes to abstraction, and
sometimes to inference. But natural science begins only with physics, whose
procédure seems to be basically analytical82, isolating impenetrability,

54 Op. cit., p. 241 (ibid., # 36).

55 Op. cit., pp. 257—258, 260 (ibid., # 51, 53).
58 Op. cit., pp. 257—258 (ibid., #51). See also the later Art de penser, Ile Sect.,
Chap. IV (from the Cours d'études, 1769—1775), Op. cit., vol. IX, p. 221 ff.
57 Condillac, Op. cit., vol. IX, Art de Penser (published between 1769 and 1773),
Part I, Chap. IX and XIII; Part II, Chap. IV.
58 J. Le Rond D'Alembert, Discours préliminaire, ed. Ducros, Paris 1930, p. 24.
(On d'Alembert, see my article: "The Philosophy of d'Alembert: A Sceptic beyond
Scepticism", to be published in Kant-Studien.)
59 Op. cit., p. 66.
80 Op. cit., p. 25.
81 Op. cit., pp. 26—32.
82 Op. cit., p. 35.


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
space, colour, shape, etc. from the other properties. Thus, by successive
abstractions we reduce matter to the simple notion of "figured extension",
upon which we construct first geometry, then arithmetics 63 and algebra,
the science of pure magnitude in général. Thus, we have reached the ut
most limit of abstraction.
But such is the procédure of the mind in its research, that, after having
generalized its perceptions until it can not décomposé them any further,
it inverts its course, recomposes again the same perceptions, and gradually
forms with them the real beings which are the immédiate and direct object
of our sensations64.
Terms such as "décomposition" and "recomposition" suggest a corres
pondence with the traditional notions of the analytical and synthetical
processes. This may be partially true. In fact, analysis is the procédure
of discovery in mathematics, and it is frequently a synonym of algebra;
it provides an excellent capability of invention, and it also helps to shor
ten geometrical démonstrations65. In the Encyclopédie, our author defines
analysis as:
«the resolution or development of a whole into its parts: thus (...) Ana
lysis of a reasoning is the examination of this reasoning by dividing it
into several parts or propositions, in order to discover more easily its
truths or falsehood» 66.
The analytical method is that of natural philosophy and of mathema
tics, as Newton used it: it consists in commencing with experience and
observation, and deriving from them général conséquences by induction.
In geometry, the synthetical method was used by the ancients, the ana
lytical was introduced by the modemsβ7.
However, in his Elémens de Philosophie (1759—1767), d'Alembert sta
tes that the "marche des inventeurs" is very well adapted to algebra,
whereas geometry should follow a "méthode rigoureuse" 68, but only as
a final systemization, whereas analysis is the best procédure of geome

83 Op. cit., p. 37.

84 Op. cit., p. 38.
65 D. Diderot, J. Le Rond D'Alembert, Encyclopédie, Vol. I, Paris 1751, s.v. "Ana
lyse", by (I'Alembert: but elsewhere d'ALEMBERT makes a distinction between algebra
(or the calculus of magnitudes in général), and analysis (its application in order to
discover unknown quantities). See ibid., s. ν. "Application" and "Algèbre".
66 Ibid., s. v. "Analyse (Grammaire)".
67 Ibid., s. v. "Analytique".
88 J. Le Rond D'Alembert, Essai sur les Eléments de Philosophie, ed. Schwab, Hildes
heim 1965 (rp. of Vol. II of the Oeuvres philosophiques, Paris 1805), pp. 307—308.
However, algebra and analysis are not the same thing (pp. 293—294): d'Alembert
repeats the distinction between them introduced in the Encyclopédie (see note [60]).


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
trical discovery 69. In logic and in mathematics, analysis is the method of
discovery, synthesis is the method of communicating the truth discovered 70.
The usage made of mathematical analysis by algebra, in order to find
the unknown magnitudes by means of the known, makes up its différence
from logical analysis, which is nothing but the art of discovering what
is unknown by means of what is known 71.
However, another passage suggests very clearly that, in mathematics
and in chemistry at least, the process of discovery implies elements of
both analysis and synthesis, as they were traditionally conceived 72. This
can not surprise us, considering Condillac's doctrines. Returning now to
the Discours, we can wonder whether the sciences subsequently men
tioned, which proceed by "recomposition", can be considered as synthe
tical in a classical sense. These sciences are: mechanics and the physico
mathematical disciplines, i. e. astronomy, général, and expérimental phy
sics; moreover, logic, grammar, rhetoric, history, etc.73 But it is evident
from what we have seen above that the sciences in question are discovered
analytically and, mostly, empirically 74 ; and this confirms the fact that for
d'Alembert the process of discovery contains basic elements of "recom
position" (i. e. traditionally speaking, synthetical elements).
Thus, the process of "décomposition" and "recomposition" establishing
an order of the sciences in the Discours have actually very little to do
with the chemical notions of analysis and synthesis, specifically, because
they contain both of them; and d'Alembert, in général, gives his preference
to analysis, although he does not share all of Condillac's views on this
point. D'Alembert's "decompositon" proceeds in a rather peculiar way:
it isolâtes and abstracts some primary elements from the empirical data,
but these elements do not exhaust the data: the former represent only a
few aspects of the latter, whereas many other aspects of the latter are
temporarily left aside, and are reintroduced later, after a further empi
rical inquiry, in the process of "recomposition", which proceeds a priori
only partially, but which mostly capitalizes on these empirical aspects,
which are further elaborated both by synthesis and analysis.
As for the order of exposition or "encyclopaedical" order of the scien
ces, in his Discours our author states that those sciences containing the

«» Ibid., pp. 317—321.

« Ibid., pp. 268—269.
« Ibid., pp. 293—294.
» ZW., p. 316.
7S D'Alembert, Discours, p. 39 ff.
74 Op. cit., e.g., pp. 40—41.


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
first principles, must précédé even if these are not the first truths which
have been discovered; this would allow the best didactical Organization
of knowledge, enabling to grasp the interrelationship of the différent scien
ces 75. But, according to the Elémens, the true principles are not général
propositions, but "des faits simples et reconnus"76, as for Condillac;
furthermore, it is necessary to establish définitions, and this is done by
developing the "simple ideas" contained in those "most common no
tions" 77.

6. Condillac's notion of analysis reappears in the article "Analyse, en

Logique", by the Abbé Yvon, in the first volume of the Encyclopédie:
«Analysis is what is called in the schools the method to be jollowed in
order to discover the truth; it's also called the method of résolution. By
this method, one proceeds from the Compound to what is more simple
(...). But, as this définition is not quite exact, we shall replace it with
another. Analysis consists in retracing the origin of our ideas, in developing
their génération and in making différent compositions and décompositions
in order to compare them with each other in all respects. Thus, analysis
is the true secret of discoveries. It has this advantage upon the synthesis,
that it always offers a few ideas at a time, and always in the simplest
order (...). It is not through général propositions that it seardies after
truth, but always through a kind of calculus, i. e., by composing and
decomposing notions in order to compare them (...) with the discoveries
in view (...). Therefore, it is clear that it is the only method capable
of conferring evidence for our reasonings; it follows, that it is the only
[method] to follow in the search after truth, and also in the manner of
instructing others; which [method] is ordinarily attributed to synthesis» 78.
In fact, if one begins synthetically with abstract principles and ideas,
in the mode of Descartes, the only resuit is général disagreement. On the
contrary, one must look for the simple ideas (of sensation), as required
by Locke. In this way, one can establish a général subordination of know
ledge, allowing to proceed from the more complex to the more simple,
and vice versa. This is true for all sciences. Savérien's notions of ana
lysis and synthesis (1753) are, on the contrary, quite traditional, with the
possible exception that he déclarés that both methods are useful for dis
covery; but the synthetical method is superior in order to expound the

75 Op. cit., p. 66 ff.

78 D'Alembert, Eléments, cit., pp. 30—31.
77 Op. cit., pp. 33—35.
78 The article "Synthèse", by J. H. S. Formey (vol. XV, 1765), is insignificant.


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
truth 79. Bonnet, in 1760, declared that analysis is the method needed in
order to study the opérations of our soul, and that he follows in his trea
tise the analytic order80. Macquer, in 1766, relates the chemical meanings
of these terms 81. Sauri in 1773, still clings to the precepts of the Logique
de Port-Royal82.

7. In Germany 8S, Thomasius, polemizing against the Aristotelians and

the Cartesians, considered the discussions about analysis and sythesis as
trifling, and Titius did the same in 1702; in this they were later fol
lowed, in opposition to Wolff, by Walch (1726), Zedler (1739) and Chr.
Ehr. Eschenbach (1761) 84. The Cartesian Sperlette's treatment ôf the
subject (1703) is superficial and traditional85. However, Walch in his
Philosophical Dictionary, (1726) offers a traditional account of both me
thods, with the noteworthy différence (deriving, as we shall see below,
from Rüdiger) that for him the synthetical method is the method of
invention, and the analytical that of vérification and démonstration86.
Zedler reproduces Walch's article on the synthetical method 87, but adds
an article on "Analysis", quite traditional, where also the chemical and
mathematical meanings of the term are listed 88, and another article on
"Synthesis", where he lists the grammatical, mathematical and judicial
meanings of this term 89. Among the early Thomasians, Budde had paid
a certain attention to the problem in question (1703); his treatment of it
is quite superficial and traditional, but he points out that both methods
are useful both in the invention and in the exposition of the truth. The
analytical method is more appropriate to physics, where the causes are

79 A. Savérien, Dictionnaire universel de Mathématique et de Physique, Paris

1753, s. v.
80 Ch. Bonnet, Essai analytique sur les facultés de l'Ame, Copenhague, 1760, Pref.,
p. III, IX.
81 P. J. Macquer, Dictionnaire de Chymie [1766] Paris 1788, s. v. Analyse and
82 Sauri, J., Elémens de logique, Paris 1773, p. 133 ff.
83 Of some interest for our subject is: Heinr. Kohler, Dissertatio de indole fictionum
heuristicarum, moralium praecipue et mathematicarum, Jenae 1724.
84 See De Angelis, Op. cit., pp. 74—75, and Schepers, Op. cit., p. 17.
85 J. Sperlette, Opera philosophica, Berolini 1703, Logica nova, p. 140.
83 J. G. Walch, Philosophisches Lexicon, Leipzig 1726, s.v. "Analytische Methode",
"Synthetische Methode", "Methode".
87 J. H. Zedler, Grosses vollständiges Universal-Lexicon, Halle—Leipzig, vol. XX,
1739, s.v. "Methode".
88 Op. cit., vol. II, 1732, s. v.
89 Op. cit., vol. XLI, 1744 s. v.


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
unknown, the synthetical to ethics, where the principles are clearly esta
blished 90.
But the main contribution to this problem within the Thomasian school
was offered by A. Rüdiger (1707, 1709), who termed as "synthetical"
his philosophy as a whole. Reviving an old tradition, he considers the
synthesis as the inventive method preeminently, while the analysis is limit
ed to verifying function (distinguishing truth from falsehood). But,
within the synthesis, définitions are valid only on a sensual foundation
(sensio), i.e. only in as far as they are empirically established. This is
the basis for a particular inventive syllogistic procédure, generating an
infinite number of possible conclusions, among which the useful ones are
to be singled out. Adherence to reality is warranted by the sensual foun
dation of all new définitions introduced. However, he does not spurn the
analytical procédure, as a means for establishing the truth of a given
proposition by reconstructing its genesis, i. e. reducing it to a sensually
validated basic proposition 91.
8. Christian Wolff is by far the most important theorist of our pro
blem in the period in question. His views on the subject are rather com
plicated, and undergo a certain évolution in the course of the author's

The question has many différent aspects. One mus

Wolff's thought 1) (a) the analysis of notions, (b) of p
(c) of démonstrations; 2) the analytical, the synthetic
methods; 3) the related problems (a) of mathematical a
the ars inveniendi 92. Wolff's analysis of notions is m

90 I. F. Buddeus, Elementa philosophiae Instrumentalis [1703], H

Vol. I, p. 165 f., 262. Budde, and S. J. Baumgarten after him,
analytical method" in theology: see W. Gass, Geschichte der Protest
vol. IV, Berlin 1867, p. 158 and 188.
91 Schepers, Op. cit., pp. 117—121.
92 Works of Wolff referred to below frequently: Vernünftige
Kräften des menschlichen Verstandes [1712], ed. Arndt, Hildes
Ausführliche Nachricht von seinen eigenen Schriften [1726], Frankf
rp. ed. Arndt, Hildesheim—New York 1973 (AN); Horae subseci
Frankfurth und Leipzig 1729—1731 (HS); Philosophia rationalis sive
et Lipsiae 1728 (Log.); Elementa Matheseos universae, vol. I,
Francofurti et Lipsiae 1733, vol. III, ibid., 1735, vol. IV, Halae 173
ed. Hofmann, Hildesheim, quoted here from the rp. 1968 (EM); Ph
Ontologia, Francofurti et Lipsiae 1730, ed. Ecole, Hildesheim 19
logia empirica, Francofurti et Lipsiae 1732, ed. Ecole, Hildesheim
naturalis, Francofurti et Lipsiae, Vol. I, 1736, Vol. II, 1737 (Theo


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
tern of Leibniz' doctrines as expounded in the Meditationes de cognitione,
veritate et ideis (1684). Wolfe on this point explicitly attacks Locke,
whose "simple ideas" are in fact, in his opinion, very complex, and must
be decomposed (zerlegt) 93. In order to render adéquate a distinct notion,
this notion must be resolved (resolutio) into the distinct notions of the
characters (notae) composing it, i.e. its characters must be made distinct
themselves; and this is the "first degree of an adéquate notion"; when
the characters of the characters are also been made distinct, the "second
degree" is reached, and so on, until the irresoluble notions composing that
notion are reached. This brings about a subordination of notions by degrees:
the highest ones are of course the irresoluble ones (Log. # 96, see also
EM I, p. 4). But, in the présent imperfect condition of science, this reso
lution is very difficult (PE # 301); if it could be completed, we would
know the général order of subordination of things according to généra
and species; but this would be possible only if we had at hand a real
System of the sciences, so that the analysis (analysis) of notions would be
more in our power (ΡΕ # 334).

The analysis of corporeal things proceeds in two ways: 1) decomposing

the divisible things into their parts, and these again into their parts;
2) discerning in the indivisible things their différent quantities and rela
tions of qualities, and further analyzing these components (PE, # 339,
Schol.). The "profoundity" of the understanding corresponds to the degree
it can reach in this analysis or resolution, and this corresponds to the
Organization of the disciplines in a system (PE, # 340 and Schol.). But
in many cases we can not perfect this analysis, i. e. we can not reach the
irresoluble notions (PE #341 Schol.) 94.

In fact we never can establish a perfect analysis of notions, but we

always have to be satisfied with some particulars, confusedly perceived,
which we admit as possible on the foundation of experience. For, if it
were granted to us to establish a perfect analysis, it would always end
in the attributes of God, as in the first possibles, whose possibility would
be distinctly manifest by the principle of contradiction, i. e. insofar as

practica universalis, Vol. I, Francofurti et Lipsiae 1738, rp. Hildesheim—New York

1971 (PP); Philosophia moralis sive Ethica, Halae Magd. 1750, rp. Hildesheim—New
York 1970 (PM); Meletemata mathematico-philosophica, Halae Magd. 1755, rp. Hildes
heim—New York 1974 (Mel).
93 Chr. Wolff, Kleine Schriften, Halle 1755, p. 290 (from the HS, 1731).
94 KMV, pp. 131—132; the German term used for analysis is Zergliederung.


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
we could realize that they do not in volve any contradictions (Theol. II,
# 174,Schol.).(This is an old sdiolastic doctrine also adopted by Leibniz)95.
Only God's intellect, being absolutely profound, can reach a complété ana
lysis of all notions {Theol. II, # 119). The "first possibles" are God's own
realities, and from them dérivé by limitation the "second possibles", which,
if combined according to the principle of contradiction, produce the essen
ces of all finite beings; if we could penetrate these truths, we would be
able to compose (componere) the ideas of all beings (Theol. II, # 91 and
Schol., and # 94) 96, as God does.

9. In fact, the procédure of analysis has as a counterpart an opposite

procédure, that of composition (compositio) or combination (combinatio)
of notions (the term "synthesis" is not used in this respect) beginning in
the nature of things with the irresoluble notions; this is the principle of
the ars combinatoria (ΡΕ, # 299, 300). Though, as in the présent State
of science we can not establish but a part of the irresoluble notions, in
the exposition of many disciplines we must begin in part with non simple
notions (ΡΕ, # 341, Schob; cf. PM, # 214). In fact, there are diaracters
which are irresoluble for us human beings at least temporarily, although
we know that they are composit, such as the yellow color of gold; and
there are also diaracters which we need not résolve for a certain purpose.
All these characters are called respectively, not absolutely irresoluble (PE,
# 162, cf. PM, # 299, Schob). This is an echo of the old and well known
doctrine, made populär by Locke, of the simple ideas of the secondary
qualities, which are simple for us, although they do not correspond to
simple elements of things. Wolff, of course, refuses to be satisfied with
Locke's subjectivism, and this is one of the reasons why he attacks him,
as we saw above. Besides the analysis of notions, Wolff mentions an
analysis of propositions, whose importance he stresses very early (1707:
Mel., I, p. 14 f.) 97. This may consist in rendering explicit a condition
contained in a proposition 98, or in the analysis of universal and particular

95 G. W. F. Leibniz, Opera philosophica, ed. Erdmann, Berlin 1840 (rp. Aalen 1959),
p. 80 (Meditationes): "An vero unquam ab hominibus perfecta institui possit analysis
notionum, sive an ad prima possibilia, ac notiones irresolubiles, sive (quod eodem redit)
ipsa absoluta attributa Dei, nempe causas primas, atque ultimam rerum rationem,
cogitationes suas reducere possit, nunc quidem definire non ausim. Plerumque contenti
sumus, notionum quadam realitatem experientia didicisse, unde postea alias componimus
ad exemplum naturae".
96 See also: A Bissinger, Die Struktur der Gotteserkenntnis. Studien zur Philosophie
Chr. Wolffs, Bonn 1970, p. 282 f.
97 See also Wolff, KMV, cit., p. 159; Arndt, Op. cit., pp. 131—132.
98 Cf. KMV, p. 159. The term is Zergliederung.


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
propositions into singular propositions (Ontol., # 51 and Schol.). The
example given here by Wolff amounts to a démonstration of the pro
position in question. It is noteworthy that in this case the analysis pro
ceeds from the universal towards the singular. On another occasion, Wolff
remarks that a démonstration of a proposition is a perfect analysis if it
shows that the proposition is identical {Ontol., # 357, cf. EM, I, p. 33).
The analysis of a démonstration, also called "logical analysis", is a further
procédure of the greatest importance ". It consists in rendering entirely
explicit the chain of syllogisms which underlie the démonstration in ques
tion {Log. #551 Schol., # 552 Schol.). In fact, e. g. many mathematical
démonstrations are sériés of enthymemes, but they become perfect démon
strations only if ail steps are made explicit {EM, I, p. 13—14). This kind
of analysis has basically a function of vérification {PM, # 123), but it
is also useful in order to acquire the ars inveniendi {PM, # 325). This
process is said to be similar to that of the vérification of additions made
by inverting the order of the addenda {PM, # 123, Schol.). There is also
a grammatical meaning of the term "analysis" {PM, # 102).

10. The mathematical meaning of the term "analysis" shall be studied

separately. In 1707 Wolff considered this term as a synonym of algebra,
i. e. of the ars inveniendi in mathematics {Mel. III, p. 4); it consists in a
set of laws ruling the constitution and the combination of symbols, and
therefore it is both an ars characteristica and an ars combinatoria {Mel. I,
p. 14). In 1703 algebra had been termed "analysis speciosa" {Mel., II,
p. 249).
In the Mathematical Dictionary of 1716 10°, "Analysis" or „Auflösungs
kunst" in général is defined as:
«It is a science allowing to solve occult questions, or to find unknown
truths on the foundation of some known truths. As at présent mostly the
literal calculus, the algebra and the differential calculus of Mr. Leibniz
are used for this purpose, these arts of invention are usually called together

99 Also this procédure is called in German "zergliedern", see AN, p. 203. See Wolff,
Kleine Schriften, cit., p. 532 (from the German translation of the Ratio Praelectionum
of 1734; this passage appeared already in the Ratio Praelectionum of 1718, see Mel.,
I, p. 136).
109 Chr. Wolff, Mathematisches Lexicon, Leipzig 1716, rp. ed. Hofmann, Hildesheim
1965, s. v. Wolff is referring to the first édition of his Elementa matheseos universae,
Halae 1713—1715. See also J. B. von Rohr, Derer mathematischen Wissenschaften
Beschaffenheit und Nutzen ..., Halle 1713, p. 5, 18. He also teadies that the mathema
tical method is the best for all sciences: p. 25, because only it teadies the true logic: p. 72.


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
analysis. Therefore I have termed "The Elements of Analysis" that section
of my "Elements of Universal Mathematics" where these arts are treated.»
There follow the définitions of the "Analysis Diophantea", of the "Ana
lysis of the Finîtes" (Algebra), of the "Infinitesimal Analysis", of the
"Analysis Potentiarum" (Resolution of Powers) and of the "Transcendent
Analysis" (Exponential Calculus).
In the EM the mathematical analysis is defined as the art of finding
(inveniendi) mathematical truths through a calculus of quantities, which
is an art of combining symbols (EM, I, p. 295, cf. p. 297). In fact, Wolff
states that, even if the resolution of démonstrations performed according
to his method is analytical and is valuable as a vérification, this is not
sufficient for discovering the démonstrations themselves: for this, the
Analysis of the Modems is needed, which is commonly called as a whole
"Algebra". This mathematical analysis has a meaning sui generis.

11. We have now to face the most difficult part of our task: that of
studying Wolff's notions of the analytical and synthetical methods in
philosophy and in mathematics. Wolff writes:
«The order we use in transmitting established truths (in tradendis dogma
tibus), is called method. And it is called analytical method, if the truths
(veritates) are expounded, [in the same order] as they were found (inven
tae), or at least as they could have been found. On the contrary, the
method is called synthetical, if the truths are expounded so that the one
can be understood and demonstrated more easily from the other. The
mixed method is that which results from a combination of both. (Log.,
# 885)»
Wolff adds that the analytical method is used by modern mathemati
cians in their dissertations, or in the papers they publish on journals, and
that he used himself that method in his Algebra, in order to expound
arithmetical and geometrical truths 101. Euclid, and the ancient geometers,
used the synthetical method, [in what is frequently called the Analysis
of the Ancients] the same as Wolff used in his Latin Logic. He used the
mixed method in his German Elements of Mathematics and in his German
Principles of Philosophy 102, although there the analytical method is pré
valent. In his Latin Philosophical Works he also used the mixed method,

101 Wolff identifies modern geometry with the "new Cartesian Algebra": Mel., p. 249
[1707]. He is referring here to higher geometry, vs. elementary geometry whidi can
be expounded only synthetically (see below).
102 Wolff most probably refers by this to the whole of his German philosophical works.


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
but there the synthetical is prévalent103. In fact the analytical method
is more alien from the scholastic order [vs. the natural order]. The ana
lytical method is also called the "method of invention, or of résolution"
and the synthetical method is also called the "method of doctrine or of
composition" {Ibid., Schol. cf. EM, V, pp. 226—227). Wolff relates that
already at the beginning of his career he taught a course on "Pure Mathe
matics According to the Analytical Method", where he "tried to show
how everything could have been discovered according to some prescribed
rules, although it was not" [i. e., although it was in fact dsicovered in
another way] 104; the analysis in question is the so-called "analysis of the
modems", i. e. algebra, and it is différent from the analytical resolution
of démonstrations {EM, V, p. 270), which is the same thing as the ana
lysis of the ancients {ibid., p. 271). This analysis of the modems is used
by Wolff, e. g. in the exposition of his arithmetica irrationalium {ibid.,
p. 275), but it can not be used as yet in expounding elementary geometry,
because this deals with magnitudes, not with spatial locations (situs): there
fore, Leibniz had requested the introduction of a calculus or analysis situs,
which would fill this gap, and allow to demonstrate analytically the whole
of Euclid's Elements of Geometry {ibid., p. 271 and 277) 105. However,
some mathematical problems shall always be solved more expediently
through the analysis of the ancients {ibid., p. 271).

12. Wolff points out that it is not the use of symbols instead of words
which make a démonstration analytical, or of words instead of symbols
which makes it synthetical: words too are symbols; what distinguishes the
two methods is the différent way of reasoning (modus ratiocinandi), not
the kinds of symbols used {ibid., p. 302, 305—306). If geometry can not
be demonstrated analytically as yet, on the other hand algebra can not
be demonstrated synthetically, because many intermediate theorems which
would be necessary for reaching this aim have not yet been discovered;
but it is more important further to develop algebra as it is, rather than
to look for those theorems {ibid., p. 301—302).
The synthetical method, used by the ancient Geometers in their démon
strations, is of basic importance also because it educates the mind to the

103 Wolff's notion of the synthetical method, as of the mathematical method per
excellence, corresponds to the doctrines, inspired by Pascal, of the Logique de Port
Royal: see H. W. Arndt, Methode scientifica pertractum, Berlin—New York 1971,
p. 128.
104 Chr. Wolff, Eigene Lebensbeschreibung, ed. H. Wuttke, Leipzig 1841, pp. 139—
105 On the analysis situs cf. Mel., III, p. 4 (1707).


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
only kind of reasoning which can produce evident démonstrations in scien
ces other than mathematics, such as philosophy (ibid., p. 249—252); it
is the true method of artificial logic as the science of démonstration (Log.,
# 26; AN, p. 65). Therefore, it is necessary to train the mind in the
resolution (resolutio) of synthetical démonstrations (EM, V, p. 250). But
this method is also of paramount importance in mathematicsloe.
It appears from what we have seen that both methods, the analytical
and the synthetical, are methods of démonstration; however, the ana
lytical method is more adapted to train the mind to further discoveries,
whereas synthetical démonstrations are more evident in mathematics, and
are, as it seems, the only evident démonstrations in the other sciences;
but Wolff came to realize that also the synthetical procédure can have
an inventive function 107.
But one must keep in mind that when Wolff speaks of the mathema
tical method in général, as identical with the method of philosophy (Log.,
Disc. Prael. #115, 139), what he says applies both to the analytical and
to the synthetical method, although sometimes he identified or tends to
identify it more specifically with the synthetical (the method of the "an
cient Geometers": Log., # 25; see also AN, 62—63, 105, 108—109).
Nevertheless, generally speaking, there is no doubt that the mathematical
method is inclusive of the analytical: otherwise one should assume that
Wolff wrote some of his mathematical works according to a non mathe
matical method; moreover, while claiming to have followed the mathe
matical method in all works, he points out (see above, # 11) that his
German mathematical108 and philosophical works are predominantly writ
ten according to the analytical method.
13. If in Wolff's Latin Logic (1728) the synthetical method seems to
be considered as pre-eminent in that it provides evidence in philosophy;
later (1741), in the Commentatio de studio matheseos rede instituendo,
the analytical method acquires a greater importance with the new doctrine
of the three degrees of knowledge, which suppléments, if not replaces the
older one of the two degrees, the historical and the philosophical, plus
an intermediate degree; in the historical, lower degree of knowledge,
facts and propositions are known (noscere) and understood (intelligere)
(Log., Disc, prael. # 3, 22, 50); in the intermediate degree, also the truth
of the facts or propositions in question is known, but only insofar as it

ι°β Wolff, Eigene Lebensbeschreibung, cit., p. 134 ff. He did not think so in a first
time (1704), cf. Met, II, p. 290.
107 Arndt, Op. cit., pp. 130—131.
108 Cf. also Wolff, KMV, p. 106.


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
is confirmée! by observations and experiments {ibid., # 54); in the supe
rior, or philosophical degree, also the démonstration of the truth (possi
bility or actuality) of the facts or propositions in question, or the knowl
edge of their ground (ratio), is provided (ibid., # 6, 7, 9, 29, 31, 46) 109.
But, in 1741, Wolff lists a first degree of knowledge, where proposi
tions, or truths, are merely understood (intelligere) (EM, V, p. 169);
a second degree, where they are demonstrated (ibid., p. 191), and a third,
where our knowledge is such that we can obtain from it on our own new
knowledge (ibid., p. 222); this aim may be reached in part through a reso
lution of démonstrations, which strengthens the habit of reasoning (ibid.,
p. 223), because the syllogism is a means of invention (ΡΕ, # 465); and
it reaches its perfection in the ars inveniendi (EM, V, p. 254), or ars cha
racteristica combinatoria, of which universal arithmetics and differential
calculus are parts (ibid., p. 273); in fact, mathematical analysis is an
example and a particular section of the général art of invention (ibid.,
p. 285).
It must be kept in mind that the tripartition of 1741 covers a larger
field more than the tripartition of 1728, because it is inclusive of mathe
matical knowledge, which in the Logic of 1728 was distinguished from
philosophical knowledge (Log., Disc. Prael. # 14, 17), but was consi
dered as being at the same on the cognitive level. The tripartition of 1741,
developed on a différent plane, reflects Wolff's growing interest in elabo
rating an art of invention, the "greatest perfection of the intellect" (EM,
V, p. 254), in his later years: an old plan which Wolff never was to
actualize no. Considering the fact that for Wolff analysis too is a means of
démonstration, and synthesis also (in the syllogism) a means of inven
tion, (besides, the combinatoria is founded on a procédure corresponding
to synthesis) the second and third degree of knowledge of 1741 cannot
be simply identified the one with the synthetical, the other with the ana
lytical order; but it seems rather clear to me that Wolff means that the

109 Cf. Κ MV, pp. 115—116, where instead of historical knowledge we find "common
110 See: M. Campo, Cristiano Wolff e il razionalismo precritico, Milano 1939, p. 79 ff.;
H. W. Arndt, "Christian Wolff's Stellung zur Ars Characteristica Combinatoria",
Filosofia, XVI, 1965; Ch. A. Corr, "Christian Wolff's Treatment of Scientific
Discovery", Journal of the History of Philosophy, X, 1972; Arndt, Op. cit., p. 139 ff.;
G. Tonelli, "The problem of the Classification of the Sciences in Kant's Time",
Rivista Critica di Storia della Filosofia, 1975, ff 1. The basic passages in Wolff are:
Mel, I, p. 14 (1707), 137 (1718); Log. 1728, # 888; FE, 1732, Praef. and # 299, 300,
301, 454 ff., 465 ff.; Mel. III, 134 ff. (1733); EM, V, 1741, p. 254, 273, 275, 279, 285;
PP, 1738 I, #89, 90, II, 1739, #11; PM, 1750, # 322 ff.


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
synthetical procédure is prévalent, and more typical, of the second degree,
and the analytical procédure of the third. Thus, it seems that in Wolff's
later years the method of analysis acquired a greater importance, and
its dignity prevailed upon that of the method of synthesis, which had
been paramount in 1728, when Wolff's main préoccupation was to pro
vide an unshakable demonstrative foundation for his system of philosophy.
The most striking feature in Wolff's use of the terms in question is,
that it is very far from being univocal. This reflects the complexity of
Wolff's ideas, in all their thoughtful sophistication. As we have seen,
the analysis of notions, that of propositions, that of démonstrations, mathe
matical analysis, and analysis and synthesis as a method, in particular
in the ars inveniendi, all have their special connotations and sometimes
widely différent meanings. In général, it may be said that analysis is
prevalently the method of invention, and synthesis the method of démon
stration; but by Wolff this traditional position is only partially accepted,
because the character of analysis (particularly in mathematics), and the
inventive character of synthesis (particularly in the ars inveniendi) are
forcefully asserted.
We have found in the foregoing several indications of the methods
according to which Wolff deemed to have expounded his system of phi
losophy. Some additional détails of this point will be of interest. Accor
ding to Wolff, in treating the différent disciplines it is necessary to begin
with the more simple notions [and to compose them synthetically.] The
best thing would be to begin with irresoluble notions, which are true prin
ciples of the sciences; but it is not always possible to reach them: then,
the analysis of notions shall begin with the notae composing some [non
simple] distinct notions (ΡΕ, # 341, Schol.). Obviously, all this présup
posés a process of analysis decomposing the notions of common experience
into their constituent parts, and, in so doing, reaching as many simple
notions as possible, while being satisfied, otherwise, with distinct notions
which can not be further simplified. This process lays the foundations to all
scientific construction. In fact, God alone is capable of a perfect ana
lysis, of notions and of propositions, the latter terminating in propositions
whose truth is know a priori (Theol. I, # 286, Schob, # 300, Schob).
However, the inventive function of the synthetical procédure in man
should not be overlooked.
15. Ontology, being the foundation of all other sciences, contains the
most simple (and, therefore, abstract) notions, which must be considered
as irresoluble; they are the final result of the analytical process (PM,
#296). Ontological notions are the most universal (PE, # 337). Ontology


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
explains the first notions (notiones primae), inclusive of the highest genus
(HS, 1729, trim. vern., p. 338); in Ontology, all dérivés from the prin
ciple of contradiction (Ibid., p. 311). All other sciences must be connected
with Ontology, at least in so far as it is needed to establish their principles,
e. g. of natural law (ibid., Schol). All mathematics is resolved in the Ele
ments of Euclid, and these are resolved in ontological principles: mathe
matics dépends on ontology, and the same is true for logic and cosmology
(HS, 1729, Trim. Wem., pp. 329—333). But sciences such as applied
mathematics, logic, physics, etc., have at their foundation also other prin
ciples, deriving from common notions (i. e., notions of common expé
rience). Logic, for example, is founded on some psychological notions (Ibid.,
pp. 134—135); moreover, Empirical Psychology is founded on many
principles of empirical dérivation, which also lay at the foundation of
Rational Psychology, of Natural Law, of Theology and of Practical Phi
losophy (PE, # 1—9). In Empirical Psychology, the basic concepts of
consciousness, and of the cogito itself, derive from common notions and
from experience (PE, #13, 14). However, in Ontology too some empi
rical concepts are used, such as those of Space and time (Ontol., # 569
and 589 Schob). In général, it is highly desirable to give the ontological
notions an expérimental foundation, i. e. to "reduce them to common
sense" (H. S., 1729, Trim. Wem., pp. 339, 345).
16. We have now to inquire into the most significant developments of
Wolff's doctrines on the subject in question within his school. We shall
encounter mostly simplifications of Wolff's views: but these simplifica
tions shall sometimes amount to a particular interprétation of them.
Hagen published a short work in 1734, with a préfacé by Wolff; but
this work is very far from reproducing the complexities of Wolff's
thought: it is clearly a vulgarization. The mathematical method pre
eminently is told to be the synthetical, "where one proceeds from the
principles to the principiated through a continuous chain of reasoning; the
analytical method, on the contrary, is used in mathematics only for ped
agogical or heuristical purposes" m. Reusch, in his Logic (1734), diverges
from Wolff in some important points. In his opinion, the methodus rationis
is that which is called either philosophical or mathematical (geometrical),
and this method can be either analytical, or synthetical; the first proceeds
"from the proof and explanation of propositions, to the grounds that
prove and déclaré", the second proceeds in the opposite way112. But
111 G. F. Hagen, Meditationes philosophicae de methodo mathematica, Norimbergae
1737, pp. 75, 366.
112 J. P. Reusch, Systema logicum, Jenae 1734, § 750—751.


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
Reusch rejects the opinion of the Scholastics, according to which the
synthetical method proceeds "from the principles internal to a thing to
those elements, which are constituted from them; such as from the parts
to the whole, from the means to the end, from the causes to the effects,
from the more général to the more specific"; and the analytical method
is said to proceed in the opposite way; because these methods, as described
by the Scholastics, concern in fact the principia cognoscendi, and not, as they
seemed to believe, the principia essendi et fiendi113. Reusch, on the con
trary, sponsors the view that the analytical method is inventive, and the
synthetical method is demonstrative114. He asserts with even more
détermination than Wolff that the "systematical method" is synthetic 115.
At any rate, the ars inveniendi, to which mathematical analysis belongs,
is not a part of logic ue. Reusch insists more than Wolff does on the
function of the analytical process in rendering an idea first clear, then
distinct117; but he admits both an analytical and a synthetical clarity;
the first consists in clarifying and distinguishing the genus, specific dif
férence, essential properties and attributes of the thing in question, i. e.
the universals to which it is subordinated; the second consists in clarifying
and in distinguishing the species and modi subordinated to the thing
itself, i. e. the particulars subordinated to it118. Thus, there are for Reusch
two possible différent Orders for constituting a scale of genuses and spe
cies; and this is another topic carefully analysed by him 119. In his opinion,
the analytical process should reach to the irresoluble characters of the
notions 12°, in Order to attain the very primary elements of being. All these
doctrines Wolff would not have easily accepted. In the first place, as the
analysis of a représentation is not for him the équivalent of setting up
a system of genera and of species, which is a much more complex Opera
tion (Wolff never declared that his metaphysics is simply a system of
genera and species: being is indeed the Genus summum, but what dérivés
from it is not necessarily ordered according to the arbor porphyriana).
Moreover, for Wolff, in synthetically Connecting a général with more
particular déterminations, these are made more distinct, but this is not
true for the général, which at most gains more clarity (more notae), in

118 Op. cit., # 752.

»« Op. cit., # 753.
"5 Op. cit., # 755.
116 Op. cit., Tract, prop. # 74.
i" Op. cit., # 109, 112 ff.
118 Op. cit., # 109, 124 ff.
118 Op. cit., # 86 ff.
120 J. P. Reusch, Systema metaphysicum. Jenae 1753, $ 406.


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
an aesthetical, not logical clarity, because it gains accidentais notae only,
which are then discarded by the analytical process insulating and ana
lyzing the notae essentiales only. Distinctness consists for Wolff in the
relationship between a représentation and the universal principles — not
in that of a général or universal with more particular elements. In his
Wolffian lexicon, Meissner listed only the mathematical meaning of "Ana
lysis" (s. v.), and omitted the entry "Synthesis" 121.

17. Among the Wolffians, Baumeister in his Logic (1735) takes a rather
non-commital position. He identifies the mathematical, demonstrative or
geometrical method with the philosophical, but, although he refers to
Wolfe, he describes this method without using the term of "synthesis" 122.
According to him, the foundations are the définitions in général, resulting
from the analysis notionum, consisting in the process by which a concept
becomes adequately distinct. But the modus demonstrandi is either ana
lytical or synthetical, according to the starting point of the syllogism:
analytical, if it is founded on certain conclusion, synthetical, if it is
founded on the first principles124. M. Chr. Hanov offers a very simpli
fied version of the processes in question. The composition (Zusammenset
zung) puts the grounds and the causes first, while the resolution (auf
lösende Lehrart) follows the opposite way; sometimes both processes must
be combined 125. For J. E. Schubert, the analysis is essentially a demon
strative process in the opposite way, and is the process of invention. The
author insists that expériences have the value of principles of démonstra
tion 12β. Knutzen's position is very simplified. The analysis idearum is
the procédure for reaching adéquate ideas (# 104 f.). What Knutzen has
to say about the analytical and the synthetical method (which he identi
fies with the mathematical method) (# 587 ff.) has nothing original in

121 H. A. Meissner, Philosophisches Lexicon darinnen die Erklärungen... aus...

Wolffens ... sämmtlichen teutschen Schriften ..., Beyreuth and Hof 1737.
122 Fried. Chr. Baumeister, Institutiones philosophiae rationalis, Vitembergae 1735,
#31—37. The requirements of the philosophical method are (#33): "I. Ut nullus ter
minus assumatur, nisi vel accurate definitus, vel experientia jam determinatus, aliunde
notus. — II. Ut ratiocinia non nisi a principiis certis deducantur adeoque conclusiones
demonstrative probantur. — III. Ut ea praemittantur, per quae sequentia intelliguntur."
123 Op. cit., #31, 96—97. It is noteworthy how Baumeister points out the limits of
this process, whidi is not possible for all ideas, and in particular for those concerning
infinity (see # 95, 97).
124 Op. cit., # 395.
125 Mich. Christ. Hanov, Entwurf der Lehr-Kunst, als der Vernunft-Kunst anderer
Abschnitt, Danzig 1740, ff 286.
123 Jo. Ern. Schubert, Logica practica, Jenae 1742, #186 ff., 204 ff.


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
it. The only interesting point is that (# 595) the analytical method is
pre-eminently demonstrative, but it also may have an inventive func
tion 127. Corvinus, a former pupil of Darjes converted to Wolffianism,
makes an extensive use of the terms in question 128. The analysis or reso
lution of an idea consists in distinguishing its predicates; thus the idea
is first made (analytically) distinct then adéquate (# 68, 69). At the
end of the resolution we meet notae, whereof we only have confused ideas
(# 71). In fact, the analysis ends when irresoluble notae are reached
(# 72). Ideas are also to be formed by synthesis or combination: for this
purpose, one must begin with the idea of a genus, and add to it its species
(# 120, 125). Thus, a synthetical clarity and distinction of notions is
reached; the clarity allows to détermine the opposite species (# 126).
There is also an analytical and a synthetical way of connecting syllogisms:
in the first case the premisses of the preceding syllogism are the conclu
sion of the following one, and vice versa (# 621). Also a démonstration
is either synthetical or analytical: in the former, we begin with established
principles, in the latter, with the conclusion which should be demon
strated (# 749). Corvinus also mentions the analytical and synthetical
methods: the latter is to be preferred in the exposition of the truth, where
fore it is pre-eminently called demonstrative, or mathematical, or geo
metrical, or philosophical (Prael, # 86, 87 and Schol.). G. F. Meier,
in his Logic, identifies the mathematical method with the synthetical pro
cess, which he defines as "composition" versus analysis which is "resolu
tion" (# 426). But he does not establish an explicit connection between
the analytical method and the décomposition (Zergliederung) of concepts,
which leads to adéquate knowledge (# 142, 148). For him, both the ana
lytical and the synthetical method are useful for invention, but the second
is more appropriate for some kinds of tractation (# 423—424); how
ever, Meier does not express a preference for any of them 129.

18. Directing now our attention to the school of Rüdiger, we find

several pertinent elements in A. F. Müller's Logic 13°. For him, the décom
position (Zergliederung) of ideas leads to simple ideas, which are the

127 M. Knutzen, Elementa philosophiae rationalis seu logicae, Regiomonti et Lipsiae

128 Christ. Jo. Corvinus, Institutiones philosophiae rationalis, Jenae 1747.
129 G. F. Meier, Auszug aus der Vernunftlehre, Halle 1752. See also his Vernunft
lehre, Halle 1762, #217 ff., 463 f., 466 f., 618 ff. On #642 Meier shows a certain
propension for the synthetical method.
130 A. F. Müller, Einleitung in die philosophischen Wissenschaften, I. T. Logic, Leip
zig 1728.


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
simplest and therefore the most général. This process brings about a regu
lär subordination of ideas, from the individual to the most général abstract
ideas (Cap. VII, # 8—10); and this is a basic function of the under
standing, which founds all judgments and syllogisms {ibid. # 12; cf. Cap.
VIII, # 5). But Müller stresses the fact that connection between the
abstract ideas and the concrète wherefrom they derive should always be
kept in mind (ibid.). An abstract idea is distinct (deutlich) in so far as
the entire connection with the individuals from which it arises is con
scious (Cap. X, # 26). Syllogisms may follow two methods: the one,
synthetical, starting from the premisses, the other, analytical, starting from
the conclusions. The first is far superior (Cap. XIV, # 4). The synthe
tical method discovers new truths; the analytical vérifiés them (Cap. XX,
#3); the analytical method uses the same rules as the synthetical (Cap. XX,
# 12). Müller denies that Algebra, as according to Wolff, is a général
source for the discovery of new truths (Cap. VIII, # 19). A. F. Hoff
mann 131 déclarés that a conséquence is derived synthetically, if it is
included into the data enunciated in the principles and theorems esta
blished at the beginning; it is found analytically, if derived from data not
connected with those theorems and principles: and this is the solution
of a problem (T. I., Vorb. # 17). A concrète idea is unresolved (unauf
gelöst); an idea is not concrète if its internai parts are distinct; a non con
crète idea is either simple, or completely resolved into its parts (Cap. I,
# 141—142). The simple ideas which are the resuit of analysis (Zerglie
derung) are either simple in themselves, or for us only (Cap. 7, # 329).
In order to think distinctly a simple idea it is necessary to have in mind
how it has been abstracted from sensible ideas (# 376, 377). Clearly,
insisting on maintaining a constant connection between the abstract and
the concrète is a character of this school of thought, which we already
met in Müller and which we shall find again. The synthetical method
proceeds from what is known to what is unknown on the foundation of
propositions already known; the analytical method starts from a pro
position whose truth is still unknown, in order to judge it on the foun
dation of other propositions already known (T. II, Cap. 5, # 5). Two
chapters (10 and 11) are devoted to a description of the two methods,
but the interesting elements are not many: the algebraic method is a kind
of analysis (Chip. 10, # 12), and the synthetical mathematical method
frequently useful in metaphysics (Chap. 11, # 10).

151 Α. F. Hoffmann, Vernunft-Lehre, Leipzig 1737.


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
19. The most significant représentative of this trend is obviously Cru
sius, and his doctrines on the subject are of the greatest importance, in
opposition to the Wolffians, or at least to the current, simplified inter
prétation of Wolff's doctrines which we have met. The analytical method
(also called auflösend, or zergliedernd) is the process through which the
distinctness, the completeness and the certainty of the knowledge from
which one Starts are increased; the synthetical method (also called zusam
mensetzend), on the contrary, proceeds from the knowledge which is the
starting point towards other knowledge, which is not part or proof of it.
Thus, the first method improves the knowledge in question, the second
proceeds from it towards new knowledge, producing the inventio of new
truths (this does not mean that such new truths were unknown, but only
that they are not contained in the knowledge which is the starting point132
(# 571). Moreover, analysis is either resolving (zergliedernd), or proving
(beweisend); the first makes knowledge more distinct, the second collects
its proofs: i. e., either, if these are already contained in the définition of
that knowledge, it makes them explicit (which is a form of Zergliederung);
or it proceeds through sensations, through memory, or through ingenium;
another kind of analysis collects other déterminations of the knowledge
in question, ("further determining analysis") (# 573—575). Mathematical
analysis, i. e. algebra is a mixture of resolving, proving and determining
analysis (# 576). Synthesis is either mathematical (geometrical) or phi
losophical. The first concerns merely possible beings, and draws conclu
sions from them. The second concerns existent beings, either physical or
moral (in the latter case, the last ends). Physical synthesis proceeds from
the effects and properties of existent things empirically known, towards
their causes, their further effects and their relationships: this is the method
of the physical sciences and of medicine (# 578—581). The philosophi
cal method is, of course, quite différent from the mathematical133. The
synthetical method always présupposés the analytical, because the very
first task is to make distinct the knowledge one Starts with, to define it,
and to décomposé the définitions into axioms: thus analysis, both resol
ving and determining, is needed in the first place (Crusius, Op. Cit.,
# 583). But a tractation usually must unité both methods; we can speak
then of an "analytical" or of a "synthetical" tractation because of the

132 Chr. Aug. Crusius, Weg zur Gewissheit und Zuverlässigkeit der menschlichen
Erkenntniss, Leipzig 1747 (ed. Tonelli, Chr. A. Crusius, Die philosophischen Haupt
werke, Bd. 3, Hildesheim 1965).
133 G. Tonelli, "Der Streit über die Mathematische Methode in der Philosophie in der
ersten Hälfte des 18. Jahrhunderts...", Archiv für Philosophie, IX, 1959, p. 56 ff.


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
method prevailing in it. For example, in ethics and in theoretical
philosophy both methods always go together (# 571, 582—583). This
will be more clear if we consider Crusius' doctrine of distinctness, which
is generated by analysis (Zergliederung), which ultimately décomposés the
notions in a number of simple elements. The mere knowledge of these
simple elements is not considered, as Wolff did, as a satisfactory foun
dation of knowledge. Following the tradition of Müller and Hoffmann
and a suggestion of Reusch, Crusius deems that the simple notions, in
order to be valid foundations of knowledge, must be endowed with a
particular kind of distinctness, which he terms "logical" or "abstractive",
consisting in the représentation of those simple ideas together with the
concrète from which they have been abstracted, and in the répétition of
the analytical abstractive process (# 170—173). Therefore Crusius' On
tology, which deals above all with the simple ideas and with the first
principles, shall be pre-eminently an analytical science; it is by analysis
that the principles of contradiction, and of the inséparables are established,
although the principle of causality and other ontological propositions are
synthetical134. (But it must be noted that the basic ontological principles
also receive a différent foundation, consisting in the fact that „it is im
possible to think differently", this being a datum of the internal sen
sation.) (Weg, #257 ff.) Crusius is convinced that, unless his doctrine
of logical distinctness is accepted, metaphysics either becomes an obscure
and incertain science: as in the sceptical wing of the Thomasian School,
headed by J. Lange — if not in the more recent English and French
sceptics; or prétends to define everything, producing only vicious circles
(the allusion to Wolff is clear). He is especially hard on this last trend
(Entwurf, # 8). Obviously, Wolff could have easily answered that Cru
sius himself feil in a vicious circle, in that the simple notions, obtained
by analysis, are made distinct simply by repeating this analysis. But this
criticism would have missed one of the basic traits in Crusius' philosophy:
that of constantly stressing the connection between the abstract and the
concrète; this was not, basically at least, a form of empiricism (in the
sense of probabilism), because Crusius' simple ideas and principles are
not reached by induction, but by an analytic-abstractive process, where
single examples are sufficient to reveal the presence of ontological elements,
inequivocably established through an analysis of those examples into their

134 Chr. Aug. Crusius, Entwurf der notwendigen Vernunft-Wahrheiten, Leipzig

1745 (Die philos. Hauptwerke, cit., Bd. 2, 1964), ff 7; and Weg ff 583. Also Chap.
II of Natural Theology is analytical: Entwurf, Vorr. [p. VIII]. Ontology, from the point
where it becomes synthetic, also proceeds a priori : Entw., ff 9.


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
metaphysical constituents. A very important point in Crusius' conception
of the synthesis, is that the knowledge produced by it is not implicitly
contained in the knowledge from which one Starts. Besides, physical syn
thesis does not only proceed from the causes to the effects, but also from
the effects towards the causes. This acquires a particular meaning if we
think of the fact that for Crusius the principle of contradiction is sterile,
and that other principles independent from it, climaxing in that of deter
mining reason, establish the foundation, among other things, of the con
nection between cause and effect. In général, the conclusions of the syn
thetical process are not implicit in the premises. Therefore, synthesis is
for Crusius a procédure which is basically founded on principles other
than that of contradiction, whereas the analysis seems basically to depend
on the principle of contradiction (décomposition of a given knowledge),
although the "proving" and "determining" analysis certainly require other
principles as well. Another clear conclusion is that for Crusius both ana
lysis and synthesis are both inventive and demonstrative processes. A pupil
of Crusius, C. G. Müller 13S, expanded on the différence between the
analytical distinctness of notions (# 26), and the synthetical: the latter
consists in the représentation of a général concept together with all spe
cies subordinated to it (# 55 ff). But his view of the analytical and syn
thetical methods is totally traditional (# 281). Another Pietist, Layriz,
is noteworthy in this respect only for having revived the old identifica
tion, usual in the XVIIth Century, of synthetical method with method
a priori, and of analytical method with method a posteriori136.
21. It is now time to turn to the considération of the eclectics and of
the minor schools. Heineccius' views 137 correspond to the most typical
conception of the problem, such as it is found in numberless handbooks,
especially among the Wolffians: the synthetical method, also called geo
metrical, is the method of invention, and proceeds from the principles to
the conclusions (# CLXII); the analytical method proceeds in the oppo
site way, and is used in the vérification of the truth (# CCXXVIIII).
Darjes had at first supported the mathematical method in philosophy with
ardour, then had become more moderate 138. He makes very little use of
the concepts in question. Basically, he asserts the methodus rationis, which
must be systematical. If it puts the principles first, it is synthetical, other

135 C. Gott. Müller, Logik und Aesthetik, Jena 1759.

133 P. E. Layriz, Elementa logicae, Stutgardiae 1745, § 250.
137 Jo. Gottl. Heineccius, Elementa philosophiae rationalis et moralis, Francofurti
1752 [1728],
138 See Tonelli, Der Streit, cit., p. 55.


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
wise it is analytical. The synthetical method is the method of démonstra
tion; it is identical with the mathematical method and shall be used in the
treatises expounding philosophy. The function of logic is basically inven
tive; its first part, on the invention of truth, is entitled Analytica 139. The
term "analysis" is also used in order to dénoté the décomposition of a term
in its characters, a process which makes it distinct 14°. Ferber (who refers
to many authorities, but who seems to dépend on Darjes in particular) 141,
mentions the analytical distinctness (p. 40), but also a synthetical distinct
ness, which corresponds to the comprehensiveness (Umfang) of the concept
in question (p. 89 ff). For Hollmann, the synthetical method proceeds from
the simple to the complex, from the abstract to the concrète, from the uni
versal to the particular, i. e., by composition; the analytical method pro
ceeds conversely, i. e. by resolution 142. They are both demonstrative me
thods (# 424); the synthetical method is that of mathematics, but the
analytical is always to be preferred elsewhere (# 441, 427). The syn
thetical method employs ratiocinations, the analytical syllogisms: a ratio
cination Starts from the principles, and descends towards the conclusion,
therefore it is more useful for invention; a syllogism Starts from known
conclusions, and researches their sufficient reason in the principles, in order
to demonstrate the conclusions (# 443—447). Philosophy is conceived as
a demonstrative science, and therefore its method is the analytical. Clearly,
what is stressed in philosophy are the factual constatations founding the
analysis, while the synthesis is an instrument of discovery for possible
truths. However, logic also concerns invention (Prooem. # XXI). As a
curiosity, I will mention the fact that Ötinger declared that the analytical
and the synthetical methods, appropriated to mathematics, are absolutely
insufficient in metaphysics, which requires "other ideas" 44S.

22. Lambert paid a considérable attention 144 to our problem, and de

veloped several aspects of it145. The décomposition (Zergliederung) of
a concept consists in distinguishing its genus and its specific différence

139 J. Ge. Darjes, Introductio in artem inveniendi seu Logic am, Jenae 1732, Praec.
# 194—212.
140 J. Ge. Darjes, Via ad veritatem, Jenae 1764 [1755], ff CCIII.
141 Joh. C. Chr. Ferber, Vernunftlehre, Helmstädt und Magdeburg 1770.
142 S. Chr. Hollmann, Philosophia rationalis, Gottingae 1746, P. III, ff 426.
143 Fr. Chr. Ötinger, Inquisitio in sensum communem et rationem, Tubingae 1753
(rp. Stuttgart—Bad Cannstatt 1964), p. 80; cf. p. 26 f., 32, 73.
144 This he already did in an early (1761) posthumous work: J. H. Lambert, Abhand
Inung vom Critérium veritatis, ed. Bopp, Berlin 1915, pp. 21, 27, 59, 63, etc.
145 J. H. Lambert, Philosophische Schriften, ed. H.-W. Arndt, Hildesheim 1965 ff.
Vol. I and II correspond to the Neues Organon (1764), vol. III and IV to the Architek
tonic (1771).


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
(I, Dian. ff 14). Putting them together again means to compose (Zusam
mensetzen) or to connect (Verbinden) (ibid. ff 17). Both procédures are
inventive. Analysis Starts with the object of the inquiry, and proceeds
towards postulâtes and propositions established by other ways. Algebra
is a form of analysis (ibid. ff 171). The invention which follows the Order
of génération (Entstehungsart) of the thing, on the contrary, is synthe
tical; also mathematics uses it (ibid. ff 170. See also ff 64). Euclid's
Elements are written according to the synthetical method (IV, ff 564).
A basic character of the synthetical invention is, that it can not be planned:
it leads to new, unforeseen concepts (I, Dian. ff 452, 456); this process
is the opposite of abstraction, and proceeds in différent ways (ibid., ff 457).
If experiments are conducted synthetically, their result is unpredictable
(ibid., ff 573—580); experiments conducted in Order to establish some
thing which is looked for follow the analytical method (ibid., ff 571, 573).
The décomposition of notions should lead to simple concepts — if we
could readi the simple concepts founding all sciences as well as we do in
geometry, we could proceed on a safe path as we do in geometry combining
them and deducing all kinds of theorems (ibid., ff 700; III, # 7—8). The
simple concepts can at best be defined through relationships (ibid., ff 653).
But not all Compounds result from absolutely simple parts: e. g. space and
time (IV, ff 541). Now, concepts can be decomposed either by abstraction
or by resolution (Auflösung). Abstraction singles out what a concept has
in common with other concepts; resolution singles out what, within the
concept in question, is heterogeneous (ungleichartig), until the simple con
cepts composing it are reached (IV, # 525). Philosophers analyze (ana
lysieren) and abstract; mathematicians, on the contrary, résolve and dé
composé: if philosophy could proceed like mathematics, its course would
be much safer (ibid., ff 697). Demonstration can be either analytical or
synthetical. In the analytical démonstration the conclusion (Schlußsatz)
is resolved as long as its premises do not need to be resolved any more
(I. Dianol. ff 315). The synthetical démonstration is the opposite (ibid.,
ff 316); but there are six kinds of methods of démonstration composed
by them (ibid., ff 330—345). However, the analytical method of démon
stration is more précisé (ibid., ff 404). The analytical method of démon
stration is basically founded on identical propositions (ibid., ff 407, 411,
421, 443). This method does not only work where the conclusion is an
experience, but it can be universally applied (ibid., ff 417). Its course
is more necessary than that of the synthetical method; it requires sometimes
the research of new data (ibid., ff 542). Lambert mentions also analysis
and synthesis in chemistry (III, ff 215).


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
23. Basedow is noteworthy for having revived again the old identifi
cation of the synthesis with the procédure a priori, and of the analysis
with the procédure a posteriori146. In 1767 Klügel published a work
devoted to the analytical and synthetical methods in mathematics 147. In
his opinion, mathematics is provided with certainty, because the parts of
its objects do not differ from the Compound, and the mode of composition
is clearly expressed (p. V): a view which was a common place in that

The ancient mathematicians, and some among the modems, such as

Newton and MacLaurin, used the synthetical method, which demonstra
tes with rigour, but does not reveal the process of invention; however, it
is properly used in geometry (p. III—IV). The analytical method con
siste in the fact, that it tries to disclose the manner of reciprocal depen
dency among the quantities which are being calculated. For this purpose
it connects général truths with known ratios of quantities, in order to
obtain those comprehensive formulas, which again are compared among
themselves and with général formulas, in order to learn new relationships
of quantities (p. XIV). The synthetical method is not so easy, "because
it is entirely concerned with singular truths, and does not reach the général
ones, because only singular Statements follow from singular Statements"
(p. XV). In the analytical method, the disposition of the truths is made
almost in a circle around a common center, which is occupied by général
truths (...); in the synthetical method, where one always has to come
back to the elementary truths, this is spread through several straight lines,
sometimes parallel, sometimes intersecting each other, so that régression
is difficult, and progression is made difficult by the ignorance of the
neighboring ways and places (p. XV). Analysis is the art allowing to
connect général and special truths, expressing their way of dependency,
although it is not a great help in invention; but its use of symbols obviâtes
this deficiency, and greatly helps the mind (p. XVI). The analytical me
thod, united with the symbolical Analysis, is the art of finding and of
developing all ratios which are given among quantities, and to posit them
in such a way that they are most easily expressed by calculus, so that
the problem is solved in the most elegant and exact way. The analytic
art, being a combination of the analytical method and of the Analysis,
is the instrument of invention (p. XVIII). However, sometimes in geo

146 J. Β. von Basedow, Philalethie, Altona 1764, Vol. II, p. 368.

147 Ge. Sim. Klügel, De ratione quam inter se babent in demonstrationibus mathe
maticis methodus Synthetica et Analytica, Helmstadii 1767.


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to
metry a synthetical démonstration, made by construction, is shorter and
more elegant than the corresponding analytic démonstration (p. XXI);
but inventions are very difficult following the synthetical method (p.
XXIII). The eclectician Ulrich 148 took over the notions of analytical
and synthetical distinctness (p. 74), but his views on the analytical and
synthetical method are quite simple and traditional (p. 179 f.). Analytical
and synthetical distinctness are also accepted by the Catholic philosopher
Roesser 149. The problem in question was also occasionally debated in
Italy and in Spain, but I feel that these discussion did not contribute to
Kant's development 15°.

148 Joh. Aug. Heinr. Ulrich, Erster Umriss einer Anleitung zu den philosophischen
Wissenschaften, vol. I, Jena 1772.
149 C. Roesser, Institutiones Logicae, Wirceburgi 1775, p. 21.
150 Fortunatus a Brixia, Philosophia mentis, Brixiae 1754 [1741], p. 172 ff.; A. Geno
vesi, Artis logicocriticae libri V, Neapoli 1749 [1745], p. 392 ff.; I. Monteiro, Ars
Critica, Venetiis 1777, T. II, p. 3 ff.


This content downloaded from on Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:21:06 UTC
All use subject to